I recently wrote about the 7 lessons I’d learnt from moving overseas for a year, sharing my expat experiences of leaving everything behind in search of something new. As much as you can anticipate and consider all the things you’ll feel or possibly learn whilst away, in all honesty, nothing can fully prepare you for the move abroad.
Crazily enough, time is already ticking into my year and a half of living in Vancouver, so here are some tips and thoughts I’d like to share that should help if you’re considering a move or are heading off on an adventure soon.
Choose memories over money
I know this sounds pretty cliche, but never is it more true than when moving overseas. I used to be a huge fan of buying designer shoes and bags, and certainly enjoyed a luxury holiday or two. That’s not to say I don’t any more – I just found that sure enough, my priorities changed and now I’m less focused on ‘stuff’ and more on living and seeing as much as I can during my experience abroad. Try to be less materialistic and think about why you’re moving in the first place. Nowadays, my money tends to be spent on days out, dining out with friends, and flights to anywhere I can afford (not to mention Vancouver’s expensive rent!)
De-clutter your life
On a similar theme, I’d really recommend having a good clear out before you leave. Consider what’s truly important to you, and what you actually need. I got rid of plenty of crap I’d accumulated over the years, sorted through clothes, and was left with only my most prized possessions and sentimental items. Chances are, you’ll be living in temporary accommodation abroad at least initially, so make sure you’re taking less, but higher quality items with you – you’ll be grateful you did when packing suitcases or shifting between apartments. The same goes for other values too. Use it as an opportunity to purge people who aren’t positive in your life or perhaps any traits you’re not so keen on. With time, you’ll soon realise who’s important to you.
Travel as much as you can
Of course, this is why many people choose to move to a new country, and maybe that’s your reason too. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can, make new friends, pile into that car for a road trip, book those last minute flights, and stay in that hostel just to experience a new city for a weekend. Remember, your time overseas could be short lived, so go for it and see as many places as you possibly can whilst you can do it.
Be open-minded and flexible
Travel is a funny thing that certainly builds character. Sometimes, just like life, things don’t go to plan, you might get lost, and you might see places you’re not so keen on. Ultimately, it’s a test of how you handle the situation and what you do to change it, but keeping calm and adaptable is a key factor. Perhaps you’ll be moving overseas alone and feel more compelled to find people; maybe you’ll move with someone and have different preferences – it’s all about being flexible in order to achieve success overseas. It’s a no-brainer that you’ll meet lots of different types of people to what you’re used to, and you’ll most likely work with plenty of people from different cultures, so be as open-minded and enjoy the journey. Remember you’re not moving to another country just to hang out with people from the same place as you!
You need to give yourself time to settle in – I’m such a planner and found this a little more difficult than I expected, feeling stressed I hadn’t immediately found a huge group or friends or wasn’t able to fill my first few weekends with social plans. Go easy on yourself and remember everything you want won’t happen overnight. Use the time to explore the city or try something new, and integration will happen with time. You’ll also need to be accepting of people back home and realise things and people will change, but you too will make your own path through your own journey.
Have a gameplan
Something that really helps me to combat homesickness is having a rough plan for my future. It can help to have some direction and know what your goals are whilst you’re busy living life. Just knowing you’re working towards a promotion, having a friend over to visit, or booking a holiday or flights to go and see family later in the year can make all the difference to your new life.
Be financially prepared
This is something that really needs to be thought of ahead of your move, as it’s a lot more difficult when you’re abroad. Of course, it’s pretty sensible to save as much as you can before moving, and there may be a period of financial uncertainty if you’re looking to find a new job in your new country. Other considerations need to include having some funds back home for anything you may need, savings, paying off any debts, and of course converting money for any funds you might need to send home.
What are your tips for moving abroad? I’d love to know what would help others heading off to live overseas.